Karim Janat blitz saves Afghanistan after thrilling T20I series finale against UAE

All-rounder deprives hosts of what would have been shock win in decider at Zayed Cricket Stadium

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A brutal late-overs assault by Karim Janat swept Afghanistan to a T20 international series win over the UAE in Abu Dhabi.

The all-rounder struck a remarkable, 21-ball half-century to spare the Afghans a shock loss at the Zayed Cricket Stadium.

The UAE were in the ascendant after thrashing their more illustrious rivals the previous night to level the series, after Thursday's loss in the opener.

They were handily placed in the decider, too, until Janat’s arrival at the crease in the 14th over of the run-chase sparked a remarkable turnaround in fortunes, and gave the Afghans a six-wicket win.

Defeat was particularly harsh on Muhammad Waseem, who could hardly have done any more to script what would have been a stunning success for the hosts.

It is tempting to suggest Waseem picked up exactly where he left off the night before, when he destroyed the Afghan bowlers in making 91. In truth, though, he has scarcely let up over the course of his T20I career to date.

Although they have a packed schedule ahead, with 10 one-day internationals scheduled in the next 25 days, it is unclear when the UAE will return to play the 20-over format.

When they do, Waseem will be on the brink of history. If he makes 58 in that game, he will equal the record for the fastest batter to 1,000 career runs in T20I cricket.

His latest blitz was almost over before it had begun. He and Vriitya Aravind might have ended up with a second century partnership for the first wicket in the space of two nights, but initially they were out of sync.

Waseem might have been run out twice off the same delivery in the first over, as he and Aravind exchanged mixed messages about whether to go for a third run.

Having drilled two remarkable cover drives off Naveen-ul-Haq in the next over, he then had another slice of luck as he edged just past wicketkeeper Afsar Zazai.

Waseem made the most of his chances, as he struck three sixes and eight fours in a 50-ball stay that brought him 75.

Again, he savaged Naveen, as he had the night before. At least Mujeeb Ur Rahman was spared more punishment this time. The star spinner did not make the starting XI, after the pummelling Waseem gave his bowling in the previous fixture.

Afghanistan did retain one trump card in the spin department, though. And how Rashid Khan carried his side.

First, the captain accounted for Waseem with a fine sliding catch off Karim Janat’s bowling. Then the world’s No 1 ranked bowler applied the squeeze with his leg spin.

Khan went for just 16 in his four overs, and had some belated joy with the wickets of Basil Hameed and Rohan Mustafa in successive deliveries in his last over.

It felt as though the one wicket he really prized evaded him, though. Khan was certain he had had Aravind caught behind, only for the umpire to turn down his appeal.

Khan had some choice words for Aravind, who was briefly his squad-mate when he was parachuted into the International League T20 for a late cameo for MI Emirates earlier this month.

Aravind stuck around, but the scoring slowed once he was parted from Waseem. After the kingpin of the UAE line-up went with the score on 129, they managed just 34 off the final 32 deliveries of the innings.

A target of 164 in 20 overs was a long way short of what it might have been for the UAE, and they did not help their prospects with the way they started in the field.

Akif Raja was the prime culprit. The seamer dropped Ibrahim Zadran on three off Junaid Siddique, and later did similar with Gulbadin Naib, who was on nought at the time.

At least the latter counted for little. Zawar Farid, the UAE all-rounder, trapped Gulbadin straight after – and promptly stood in front of the Afghan veteran, flexing his muscles.

It was an upbeat end to an otherwise bizarre over. As well as the Akif drop, Zawar conceded seven wides in his first six balls.

Despite their tattiness, UAE managed to maintain control of their more celebrated opposition, limiting them to 86 for four by the 14th over.

It was at that point that Janat launched a counter attack, feasting on Akif's bowling with a four and two sixes and consecutive balls.

He never let up thereafter and, having just brought up his half century in rapid time, he hit the first ball of the final over for six to clinch the win.

Updated: February 19, 2023, 9:02 PM